PARC: How Xerox contributed to the first laser printer, GUI, ethernet and other mainstream technologies

By on December 20, 2011, 12:27 AM

Although we generally associate technological advancements with the companies that successfully commercialize them, there are often underappreciated bodies toiling away behind the curtain. In many cases over the last 40 years, PARC (formerly Xerox Palo Alto Research Center) has been that hidden player, inventing many of today's ubiquitous technologies or refining them from abstract concepts.

Launched as a development arm of Xerox Corporation in 1970, PARC has played an instrumental role in the engineering of laser printing and many of the technologies that compose the PC you're reading this on. The team included many of the world's top computer scientists, not least of which were former employees of the Stanford Research Institute.

Despite its vast industry contributions, the group has been criticized for failing to capitalize on its many innovations. While some of our older readers might be familiar with the prolific Palo Alto Research Center, we think its accomplishments have largely escaped the younger tech crowd. We'd like to take a few minutes to give credit where credit's due.

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User Comments: 14

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Guest said:

Yes, a really great place that had a lot of good ideas and products that Gates and Jobs could build their companies from in the 70's. Between the hardware Xerox came up with and the Software (GUI)... Wondering If Hewlett or Packard visited the place too and got the idea of the laser printer and expensive ink/toner from them.

Erik Erik said:

Very interesting article, It's always amazing to see how history repeats itself. Nice piece Matt!

Guest said:

So instead of saying Microsoft or Apple is better/worse maybe we should just say thank you to all the PARC employees.

Guest said:

Kinda sad that Xerox is best known as a copy machine brand rather than an innovator in personal computing.

Guest said:

Just goes to show that it's not about ideas. It's about vision and marketing.

Guest said:

Thank goodness there are still a few people around who recognize how much bs has been shoveled around about Apple and Steve Jobs. Since his death, Steve Jobs and Apple have been credited with inventing everything from the personal computer to the internet. And I'm really tired of hearing such lies. Unfortunately the very young and the uninformed believe most of that crap so it's refreshing to see the truth in print for a change. Go Xerox!

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

It's about vision and marketing.
EXACTLY. The better mouse trap seldomly wins, but the better marketing team almost always does.

Back when the Big Blue Mainframe was THE system (aka System/360) companies were afraid of being locked into IBM (justly so too).

However, no manager was ever fired because he/she bought IBM - - the same could not be said for the competition.

Xerox PARC management just didn't have the vision to see the ubiquitous nature of PCs; a sin that neither Gates nor Jobs suffered from.

Guest said:

Blasphemy, all this was thanks to Apple.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

Blasphemy, all this was thanks to Apple.
Sorry but, even as a proponent of Apple, I can tell you the story is true - - I was in Silicon Valley when it all occured.

RH00D RH00D said:

Don't you know? Steve Jobs invented the universe.

Guest said:

I was a Xerox employee for 43 years and saw upper management run the company into the ground.Not using all the technology that was invented at Parc was only part of their mistakes. The company, Xerox, is only a shell of what is used to be. They no longer care about their employees current or retired.

1949pilot said:


The sad thing is that Xerox is still out there, clawing their way to the bottom. When I started with them in 1972 they were 95 cents of every dollar spend worldwide for copying. Now they are in fourth place-being led down the path by the three musketeers. Sad indeed.

Guest said:

1949 pILOT, I too worked at Xerox, Cleveland Oh. Diamond Shamrock Bldg. LOVED it. I was amazd at the TECH being invented or enhanced. The STAR 8010. Networking. Mice. Problem is as someone said, TOP Management was selfServing. To think, had THEY beeen thinkers, they'd be FABULOUSLY rich as well as famous. Greed. Stupidity.

Amazing how Apple's founder admitted ( youtube " I hired the wrong Guy ) Seeing this and having an Epiphany. Yet HE and HIS company is credited as creating the entire Nice. APPLE as JOBS admits OWES it LIFE to XEROX. JOBS admits it in th e interview. SOmhow I missed the HAND-HELD device . NEAT ONE.

Guest said:

Too bad they have been ahead of their time. I guess such inventions won't pay big until they invent time travel. Think about it...

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